The July 14 agreement between Iran and the six-country group known as the P5+1 established a set of important limitations and related transparency measures on Iran’s nuclear activities.
Principles and Building Blocks
A nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was first proposed in the UN General Assembly in 1974 by Iran and Egypt. In 1990, the proposal was broadened by Egypt to include a ban on chemical and biological weapons—that is, to create a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. A 1991 study commissioned by the UN secretary-general proposed that such a zone encompass “all States directly connected to current conflicts in the region, i.e., all States members of the League of Arab States…, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Israel.”2 As of late 2015, all of these countries but two—Israel and Syria—had sent letters to the UN secretary-general confirming their support for declaring the Middle East a region free from nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.3
Any Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone will need robust verification. The parties to a zone treaty almost certainly would want a regional monitoring regime to buttress IAEA inspections. Such an arrangement exists in Europe in the form of Euratom. In Latin America’s nuclear-weapon-free zone, Argentina and Brazil have a joint organization, the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, through which they monitor each other’s nuclear activities.
Measures could go beyond standard IAEA safeguards to include the new transparency obligations accepted by Iran under the July 2015 agreement, such as monitoring of uranium mining and purification, uranium imports, and production of nuclear materials and nuclear-related technology such as centrifuges. Some other elements of a possible verification regime are discussed below.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action provides an unprecedented opportunity for an international effort to make progress toward a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone, possibly as part of WMD-free zone in that region. Building on the foundation created by that agreement, the measures proposed here constitute the essential technical steps toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone.
1. For a longer discussion, see Frank N. von Hippel et al., “Fissile Material Controls in the Middle East: Steps Toward a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and All Other Weapons of Mass Destruction,” International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), 2013.
3. UN General Assembly, “Letters Received From Member States Confirming Support for Declaring the Middle East a Region Free From Weapons of Mass Destruction, Including Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons: Note by the Secretary-General,” A/68/781, March 6, 2014.
4. For a detailed discussion of various estimates of Israel’s plutonium production, see IPFM, “Global Fissile Material Report 2010; Balancing the Books: Production and Stocks,” December 2010, ch. 8, http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr10.pdf.
8. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), materials license SNM-2010 issued for the Louisiana Energy Services National Enrichment Facility near Eunice, New Mexico, June 23, 2006, http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0617/ML061780384.pdf.
9. Areva, “Expanding the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure by Building a New Uranium Enrichment Facility” (presentation at pre-application meeting with the NRC, May 21, 2007), http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0716/ML071650116.pdf.
10. The deputy head of the Iranian navy said in 2012, “Since we possess peaceful nuclear technology, therefore we can also put on our agenda the construction of propulsion systems for nuclear submarines.” “Iran Plans to Build N-Fueled Submarines,” PressTV, June 12, 2012.
14. The centrifuges used in Urenco plants, including the Urenco USA plant, and in Areva’s plant in France are made on a “black-box” basis by the Enrichment Technology Company, which is jointly owned by Urenco and Areva.
15. Israel is believed to have clandestinely obtained about 300 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium from a U.S. naval fuel fabrication facility during the 1960s. Victor Gilinsky and Roger J. Mattson, “Did Israel Steal Bomb-Grade Uranium From the United States?” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 2014. See also Victor Gilinsky and Roger J. Mattson, “Revisiting the NUMEC Affair,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 66, No. 2 (March 2010).
16 . International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) Between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards,” INFCIRC/540 (Corrected), December 1998.
17. IAEA, “Status of the Additional Protocol; Status as of 03 July 2015,” November 13, 2015, https://www.iaea.org/safeguards/safeguards-legal-framework/additional-protocol/status-of-additional-protocol.
18. R. Scott Kemp, “A Performance Estimate for the Detection of Undeclared Nuclear-Fuel Reprocessing by Atmospheric 85Kr,” Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, Vol. 99, No. 8 (August 2008): 1341-1348.
19. R. Scott Kemp and Clemens Schlusser, “Initial Analysis of the Detectability of UO2F2 Aerosols Produced by UF6 Released From Uranium Conversion Plants,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 16, No. 3 (2008): 115-125; R. Scott Kemp, “Source Terms for Routine UF6 Emissions,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 18, No. 2 (2010): 119-125.
20. Such a cradle-to-grave approach was proposed by Austria in 2009. IAEA “Communication Dated 26 May 2009 Received From the Permanent Mission of Austria to the Agency Enclosing a Working Paper Regarding Multilateralisation of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle,” INFCIRC/755, June 2, 2009.
Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, and Frank von Hippel are members of the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University. Mian is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors.